There was a perhaps surprising lack of drama and no public comment at Wednesday morning’s Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting one day after the November 5th Election. That election saw three new supervisors poised to be seated in the coming year, though only one of the incumbents in those three districts was running for re-election.
And that defeated incumbent, Tom Sayre of the Shenandoah District, was gracious in defeat, adding his congratulations to his opponent Walter Mabe, who along with South River District supervisor-elect Cheryl Cullers was present for the 9 a.m. start of the November 6 meeting.
During board reports following the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office report Happy Creek Supervisor Tony Carter, who along with the Fork District’s Archie Fox was not up for re-election this year, began the move toward a cooperative future by congratulating not only Tuesday’s winners, but all who participated in campaigning for office in this contentious election year. Each supervisor followed suit, as did County Administrator Doug Stanley who added his congratulations to Cullers, Mabe and North River District victor Delores Oates.
Board Chairman and North River District Supervisor Dan Murray, who like South River’s Linda Glavis did not run for re-election this year, added a pointed observation on this year’s competitive electoral season. After “dittoing” Carter’s congratulatory remarks to all those who jumped into electoral politics this year Murray noted the strains personally and financially in running a political campaign, adding that not only those with the most votes were winners, but that “The County won because we have people who care” enough to get involved.
And while Murray as board chairman has not always seen eye to eye with some of the more boisterous members of the public who have chided County officials for their perceived collective lack of due diligence in oversight of the Economic Development Authority as what is now a $21.3 million financial fraud scandal developed in recent years, as has become his habit Murray opened Wednesday’s meeting with a call for a moment of silent prayer or reflection for healing, civility and cooperation in moving the County government forward out of the shadow of the EDA crisis.
Two interrelated items stood out in what was a very light first meeting of November agenda. Those were County Administrator Stanley’s summary of the coming Fiscal Year budgetary process and schedule and Human Resources Manager Jodi Saffelle’s presentation on a proposed contract for an Interim – it must be a contagious disease – Finance Director.
Stanley reported that what has grown to a six-month annual budgetary process is looming with notice to departments of budget requests slated to go out November 8 and replies due back by December 18. A vote on final FY 2021 budget approval is scheduled for April 21, 2020.
Stanley traced a process adding some level of additional scrutiny to departmental budget requests, noting, “This is not a complete departure from the way we have always budgeted as each Department Head and Constitutional Officer had to go through the justification during their meetings with the County Administrator and Finance Director with a final review by the Board of Supervisors.”
Of the so-called “Zero-based budget” process Stanley explained, “The forms require each department to present information regarding departmental goals, workload, and services provided … Simply put, we will request additional justification/detail for each and every line item expense as part of the budget submittal this year.”
Interim Finance Director
Saffelle then told the board that the County had gotten “minimal response” after six weeks of advertising for a replacement for departed Finance Director Andre Fletcher, whose resignation to move elsewhere took effect October 18. While Saffelle assured the supervisors that the Finance Department staff was experienced and doing an admirable job of managing the department’s daily operations, she noted that the absence of an experienced director “leaves a large void for which immediate assistance is required.”
An initial inquiry to the Virginia Municipal League/Virginia Association of Counties (VML/VACO) produced no available Finance Director candidates, Saffelle reported.
However a candidate was discovered through an inquiry to The Berkeley Group, LLC, a local government consulting firm. That candidate is Jim Allmendinger a retired CPA (Certified Public Accountant) who served as Director of Finance for Rockingham County for 13 year prior to his 2015 retirement; prior to that he had extensive private sector experience.
Saffelle reported that during his tenure in Rockingham County Allmendinger was responsible for a $300 million annual budget and 2500-plus County and Public School System employees. Comparably in 2018, Warren County had a $117 million budget and a total of 1273 County and Public School employees.
An hourly rate of $90 per hour with a daily mileage expense estimated at $78.88. Saffelle estimated Allmendinger would work three days a week, traveling from Rockingham County on those days. With Allmendinger hired as a contract employee the County will not be responsible for any tax deductions or other myriad benefits or insurance coverage payments.
While Saffelle told Royal Examiner there was no request that the option of transferring the contract to an individually-owned LLC be included to minimize the interim finance director’s tax responsibilities from the contract, she noted that the contract was with the Berkeley Group which is itself an LLC, as opposed to directly with Allmendinger.
The budgetary requirement for the hire was estimated at $15,120 to $30,240 for a two to four-month term dependent on the County’s future luck in attracting a permanent applicant for the position.
The FY2021 budget schedule was unanimously approved on a motion by Carter, seconded by Sayre; and the Interim Finance Director contract was unanimously approved on a motion by Fox, seconded by Glavis.
Watch the meeting in this Royal Examiner video:
Crooked Run West facing central water denial at Nov. 12 council meeting
Despite November 4th work session discussion indicating a clear council majority publicly stating they will not vote to approve Town central water and sewer extension to the now primarily residential Crooked Run West development outside the town limits in the Route 522/340 Commercial Corridor there will be a vote on the request at the Tuesday, November 12 Front Royal Town Council meeting.
“What is the will of council, do you guys want to punt this some more?” Interim Mayor Matt Tederick asked after suggesting the Town keep the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the County regarding the extension of Town central water-sewer out of town in place.
“No, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. We don’t have enough people on council who are interested in supplying water. None of us – well there are two undecideds who I don’t know where they stand and I don’t want to put words in anybody’s mouth – but if we continue to drag this to work sessions, we’re not being straight forward in just saying, ‘Look, we’re not interested.’ Just say that, we’re not interested and let’s move on to something else,” Councilwoman Letasha Thompson suggested in the wake of negative council comments concerning the request.
Responding to a question on process options by Interim Mayor Tederick, Town Attorney Doug Napier concurred with Thompson’s suggestion noting council could simply message the developer and/or the County that is still considering the rezoning request that would enable the project to move forward if Town central utility extension were granted “that there is no majority council support and leave it at that.”
However one of those apparent undecideds, Councilman Jacob Meza who at times appears to be council’s biggest proponent of accommodating the request, suggested a public vote to put council and its members on the record in response to the request. Tewalt agreed and the matter was forwarded to the forthcoming council meeting of November 12 for a vote.
Prior to that decision to proceed with an apparently negative vote on the Crooked Run West matter there was some interesting discussion surrounding the request and exactly what accommodating it would imply for the Town’s future control of its own central water-sewer utility.
“I’m not in favor of supplying water out there to Crooked Run West; I’d like to see it stay commercial… I’m not in favor of giving them water for the change to residential growth,” Councilman Chris Holloway, himself a residential developer, said.
However, Holloway disputed Councilman Gene Tewalt’s contention that accommodating the request would set a dangerous legal precedent altering the Town’s water policy and agreement with the County that Town water-sewer be extended outside the town limits primarily for commercial and industrial development.
The issue is a consequence of the first-of-its-kind in Virginia 1998/99 Corridor Agreement between the Town and County that headed off what would have been a bitterly-contested annexation fight precluding the extension of Town water-sewer to facilitate commercial development seen as a community-wide benefit into the North Corridor.
“I mean I think we’re already supplying water out into other areas and I think if somebody did come along and want to sue us for not providing water and sewer they’d have good case cause we’re already supplying water and sewer to Blue Ridge Shadows all up through those areas… We’ve already opened the door,” Holloway told his colleagues.
“No, we haven’t,” Tewalt responded in disagreement, apparently based on the fact that the water-sewer extension to the residential aspect of the Blue Ridge Shadows project was done as part that group’s originally-submitted plan to build a professional tournament sized golf course as the commercial base for its residential aspect. That Town central water-sewer extension to Blue Ridge Shadows also facilitated additional commercial development to the adjacent Holiday Inn motel and Houlihan’s restaurant.
“If we open the door up, we’ll never be able to close it again,” Tewalt insisted of accommodating a primarily residential development central water-sewer utility request outside the town limits.
School Board approves anti-bullying resolution, wireless upgrades
FRONT ROYAL — A high school anti-bullying initiative, along with almost $80,000 in wireless upgrades and additional cables for local elementary schools, received unanimous approvals by the Warren County School Board during its regular meeting on November 6.
School Board members voted 5-0 to adopt a resolution supporting Warren County High School’s (WCHS) DECA Chapter in its endeavors to promote a culture of zero tolerance for bullying behavior in school.
Every year the high school’s DECA chapter conducts a project and maps out several related activities for the fall. The team also submits its final project for competitions at the state and national levels, said Richard Gardner, WCHS business and marketing teacher and a DECA advisor.
This year, the 50-member WCHS DECA Chapter developed the Enough Project, an awareness campaign to end domestic violence, child abuse and bullying. As part of the project, DECA students have teamed up with The Phoenix Center, a local help center for victims of domestic violence, and joined in the AT&T Later Haters national campaign to promote online positivity and cyberbullying awareness, among other activities.
Three WCHS students are in charge of the Enough Project: Halea Hose, 17, a senior; Reina Garnette, 16, a junior; and Brianna Cochran, 15, a sophomore. They presented information about the project to School Board members on Wednesday and asked for their support.
“Teenagers who are witnessing violence in their families are 50 percent more likely to have an abusive relationship themselves,” Hose explained. “This was a very scary statistic to learn… and we decided we wanted to do something to help.”
The students first unveiled the Enough Project by setting up a stand at football games where they also handed out Phoenix Center resources and other related information, including a hotline number for victims.
As time went on, though, the students chose to expand the reach of the project by teaming up with the Prevent Child Abuse America organization, which in 2008 introduced the pinwheel as the new national symbol for child abuse prevention through Pinwheels for Prevention.
Cochran, who handed out purple pinwheels to each of the School Board members, reminded everyone that “what you say to your child means more than you will ever know.”
Consequently, the students also decided to raise awareness about the significant role that social media plays in modern-day communications as part of their Enough Project.
“The sad truth is that social media opens up a gateway to cyberbullying,” Garnette said. “Cyberbullies use the internet to tear people down and spread hate without having to show their face or take responsibility for their actions.
“What they don’t know is that victims of cyberbullying can experience feelings such as loneliness, isolation, and extreme stress and anxiety,” added Garnette. “Our mission here is to spread awareness and educate our youth on the impact that one single text or snapchat can have on someone’s mental health and self-esteem.”
This year, the DECA team also held an event at Skyline Middle School to help raise awareness about bullying. They encouraged students to sign pledge cards that state: “I believe that everyone at Skyline Middle School has a right to be who he or she is without being bullied or made fun of. I promise to be respectful of others and their feelings. I promise that I will not BULLY or TEASE others. I promise to help others who are being bullied. If I see someone bullying another person, I will go and tell an adult.”
“Domestic abuse, child abuse and bullying all have one thing in common: mental health,” said Hose, who handed out a pledge card to each of the School Board members. “Everyone in this room knows what it’s like to feel alone and we want to make sure that no child has to go through that.”
Going forward, the Enough Project team plans to work with guidance counselors and other DECA chapter members to hold more activities for middle schoolers about healthy relationships.
“Board members, we need your help to say ‘Enough’ to domestic violence, ‘Enough’ to child abuse, and ‘Enough’ to bullying,” Hose said.
School Board members thanked the students for their efforts and adopted the “Resolution of the Warren County School Board Supporting the Warren County High School DECA Club Anti-Bullying Initiative.”
The resolution acknowledges the “pervasive problem” caused by bullying in schools and its negative consequences and states that School Board members support the DECA chapter “in helping to create a student-led culture of intolerance for bullying.”
In other action, members of the School Board voted on two separate, but related wireless items brought before them by Timothy Grant, director of technology for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS).
Grant explained that the district’s elementary schools need upgraded WIFI access since each school is currently outfitted with approximately one access point for every eight classrooms. The upgrade will increase the WIFI saturation to one access point per classroom, he said.
“The funding for this project is coming from E-Rate Program funds and the WCPS technology budget,” said Grant, who noted that federal E-rate funding will pay for 70 percent of the eligible products and services.
The entire cost of the project totals $137,322, Grant said, with WCPS only responsible for $40,181 of the project due to the E-rate discount and a technology trade-in program for the ineligible items.
The board voted 5-0 to approve the $40,181 purchase of wireless products and services for A.S. Rhodes, E. Wilson Morrison, Hilda J Barbour, Leslie Fox Keyser, and Ressie Jeffries elementary schools following a motion by board member Arnold Williams Jr., and a second by board member James Wells.
Grant then approached the board with a request for additional cabling that needs to be installed in each WCPS elementary school to support the upcoming wireless upgrade. This will be done in conjunction with the E-rate wireless project and is required for the new access points to be installed, he explained.
The cost of this project is $39,000, with services and equipment for this project quoted using the Town of Front Royal IT contract, according to Grant.
School Board members unanimously approved the request following a motion by School Board Vice Chairman C. Douglas Rosen and a second by School Board member Donna McEathron.
Watch the Royal Examiner video to see other reports and action by Warren County School Board members, including its approval of both the 2020-2021 school year calendar, as well as the members for the 2019-2020 Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee.
Council addresses recycling, Tederick contract and Crooked Run West
It was a spirited, informative and occasionally contentious Front Royal Town Council Work Session Monday evening, November 4, at Town Hall.
The work session opened with a presentation by new recycling contractor Republic Services clarifying some do’s and don’ts of the Town’s new single stream recycling contract – the uptake being that following some basic guidelines it may not be as complicated a transition to the new system as it initially seemed.
Prior to adjournment to Closed Session to conduct an exit interview with departing Town Manager Joe Waltz whose final day here is Friday, the work session concluded with Councilman Gene Tewalt revisiting issues he has with the negotiating process on the contract that will install Interim Mayor Matt Tederick as Interim Town Manager succeeding Waltz for as long as six months.
As discussion turned to the inclusion of a tax shelter arrangement allowing Tederick to transfer his contract to an unnamed LLC under his control, Tederick observed, “I can’t be part of this conversation,” handing the meeting chair over to Vice Mayor Bill Sealock.
Tewalt again noted that he had not seen a draft of the contract prior to a vote on its approval. That led Councilman Jacob Meza, who was apparently more directly involved in the contract negotiation, to state that there had been copies on the table prior to the contract’s approval, which came as news to Tewalt.
“Why are we paying an LLC?” Tewalt pressed of the LLC transfer option Tederick previously told Royal Examiner could save him as much as $7,000 in tax payments.
“Why, do you think it’s illegal?” Meza asked.
Tewalt replied that it had an appearance of illegality.
Sealock said that when he inquired about the LLC option the Town Attorney didn’t have an issue with it, so he had voted to approve the contract as presented.
However asked about his involvement in development of the contract, Napier restated what he previously told Royal Examiner – “I do not give tax or business advice” but adding that the LLC/tax arrangement did not substantially change the nature of the contract as it applies to the interim town manager’s duties and responsibilities in overseeing the administration of the Town governmental apparatus.
Councilman Chris Holloway then observed that during earlier closed session discussion Tewalt had thrown his hat into the ring as a potential candidate for the interim town manager’s job. Tewalt, a past director of the Town Public Works Department, later confirmed that he had offered his services in the interim town manager’s role before realizing the Town Charter prohibition on council members being appointed to Town staff positions for a year after their service on council would prevent it.
Tederick offered that by not having tax deductions or benefits written into his contract he was saving the Town about $4,000 a month on his contract arrangement and called the tax/LLC aspect of the contract a “red herring”.
But when Tewalt observed the whole contract process reminded him of the EDA situation, Tederick reacted by calling the comment “out of order”.
Between that meeting-ending drama and the opening recycling explanation, council also revisited the Crooked Run West central water-sewer request and potential impacts on the Town’s water policy in the Route 522/340 North Commercial Corridor; adoption of a “Spot Blight Abatement Ordinance” mirroring one in place in both Leesburg and Loudoun County that would give the Town authority to finally begin a legally-established method of forcing property owners’ to correct problems with structures cited as a danger to public safety, health and welfare; and pedestrian safety improvements on Kerfoot Avenue in the vicinity of the youth soccer fields and skatepark.
More on these Council discussions in upcoming Royal Examiner stories; however, spoiler alert on the Crooked Run West request for Town central water-sewer – a clear council majority indicated no interest in extending that central utility to facilitate primarily residential development at Crooked Run West. A vote on the request was scheduled for the upcoming council meeting. We’ll see how that clear, stated majority holds up over the next week …
Watch all of those work session discussions and presentations in this exclusive Royal Examiner video:
Town Manager update: Tewalt expresses concerns on process; Tederick ready to press forward
The post Closed Session vote Monday night, October 29, to agree to a contract with current Interim Front Royal Mayor Matt Tederick to transfer to the role of Interim Town Manager on November 9th, the day after current Town Manager Joe Waltz’s resignation becomes effective, drew only one dissenting vote.
That vote, like the lone October 15 vote against offering Tederick the town manager’s job without any competitive search or interview process, came from Councilman and Mayoral candidate Eugene Tewalt.
Contacted the following day about his dissenting vote Tewalt echoed past comments about his perception this council majority too often moves without enough information, forethought or opportunity for public input.
“My main concern is we had no time to discuss if there are any problems or concerns. We never saw a contract – at least I didn’t see it,” Tewalt said of the contractual basis for the interim mayor’s agreement approved by a 5-1 council vote Monday night.
Royal Examiner saw a draft version of Tederick’s contract in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request regarding Town Charter and Code implications surrounding Tederick’s shift from the appointed Interim Mayor’s position to an interim appointment as Town Manager. That contractual agreement approved Monday evening by council includes a $12,500 monthly salary commencing November 9, 2019 and potentially extending through July 1, 2020. The term will expire earlier upon appointment of a permanent Town Manager, a position Tederick assured us he was not interested in with a three exclamation point “No! No! No!” answer on October 16.
Asked about the agreed upon compensation that would come to $150,000 annually, Tewalt said, “I think it’s way out of line,” for someone he has not been shown has experience running a multiple department, large employee base business or municipal operation.
Contacted by Royal Examiner Tederick admitted to a lack of experience in operational oversight of such a large enterprise but said he was ready for the challenge – “It’s a matter of management and leadership,” he reasoned.
Tederick said he has already met with department heads on various topics and possible initiatives he is interested in pursuing. “It’s a challenge, do I want to try and push these things through or tee them up so I can say to the permanent selection, ‘Here, this is ready to go,’ ” he observed of balancing his interim tenure against the longer term management goals of his successor.
Of his salary Tederick said he had been offered a monthly compensation based on the total compensation package departing Town Manager Joe Waltz had in place. Tederick put that annually at “just over $200,000”. But he said he was willing to take less, dropping about a quarter off that to the agreed upon $12,500 monthly number in the contract, as noted above which equates to $150,000 annually.
One portion of Tederick’s draft contract received by FOIA caught our eye.
“It is expressly agreed that Manager may transfer and assign this Agreement to Manager’s wholly-owned limited liability company (LLC) … such transfer and assignment being strictly for business and tax reasons of Manager …”
Contacted about that clause of the contract Town Attorney Doug Napier explained that Tederick “asked for it” observing, “I don’t give tax advice, you’ll have to ask him.”
Tewalt said he’d never seen such a clause in a Town Manager’s contract before and reiterated his point about more time and due diligence being undertaken by council in the appointment process.
Tederick noted that as a short-term contractor he will be paying his own taxes and stood to save $5,000 to $7,000 on the LLC transfer arrangement – “But I’m probably not going to do that,” he said pausing, then adding, “If it passes the check boxes on ethical, legal and taxes we’ll see.”
And while some public concern was expressed about Tederick’s second successive interim appointment to key Town positions during the open portion of Monday’s meeting as reported by Kim Riley in her lead Royal Examiner story on that meeting (see below referenced story), Tewalt noted that after an approximate 45-minute closed session following a nearly two-hour public meeting, the public was no longer present to see the Tederick Interim Town Manager agreement approved.
“In my opinion we are not showing the community we’re transparent at all. We go into closed meeting; a decision is reached and we come out and vote. There was no one there except the media by the time we came out of the closed meeting and voted,” Tewalt observed of Monday’s council action as the clock approached 10 p.m.
“We are not following protocols of the past where we’d get multiple applications. There were no applications, no resumes, no interviews. This is the first time I’ve seen it like this,” Tewalt observed, adding, “There has been nothing discussed on the process of hiring a permanent town manager.”
Tederick told us from discussion with staff who had been through the process eight times in the past the hiring of a permanent Town Manager could take from three to six months on average. And he reiterated Wednesday on Halloween Eve that he would like to get the search process up and moving within a month.
“I’ve talked to VML and Human Resources about the kind of people we are seeking for a permanent appointment. There is a November 12 regular council meeting, I think by the one after that we’ll have greater clarity and get the process launched in November,” Tederick told us.
In the email accompanying his Royal Examiner FOIA response Town Attorney Napier addressed, as he had Monday evening, certain Charter or Code concerns surrounding Tederick’s interim movement from the mayor’s seat to the Town’s top administrative job.
“I researched State Code and the Town Charter, and given that Mr. Tederick is appointed interim Mayor, not elected, given that the law is that a mayor is not a member of Town Council, and given Mr. Tederick’s appointment as interim Town Manager does not commence until after his term as interim Mayor ends, Council is fully authorized to appoint Mr. Tederick as interim Manager,” Napier wrote, citing several Virginia Attorney General opinions on the council-mayor issue.
Of the pace toward that appointment the town attorney explained, “Considering the timeline in the departure of Mr. Waltz as Town Manager it appears that Council had quite limited options. Mr. Waltz informed Council that no Town department head was available to step into the interim role.
“Mr. Tederick has garnered considerable knowledge of the Town’s operations; as well as intimate knowledge of the whole EDA situation and lawsuit.
“Council wants good continuity of government, a thorough transition between Mr. Waltz and the Interim Town Manager, someone who can hit the ground running. Given all that is going on in the Town, Council did not feel it would be in the best interests of the Town and its citizens to not have a Town Manager in place who is unaware of what is going on. Mr. Tederick seemed to Council to be the right fit for this interim role.”
Front Royal Town Councilman Meza: ‘We aren’t crooks’
FRONT ROYAL — Front Royal Town Councilman Jacob Meza decided on Monday night during the Town Council’s regular meeting that it was time he confronted the backlash council members have received lately.
“You don’t have to like every decision that a council member or a council makes,” Meza told the audience, “but I do think that we deserve respect for the time that’s being served in this community daily … and that each and every one of us aren’t considered crooks or that we’re trying to do something malicious against the community that we live and work in.”
The councilman chose to address the situation after five citizens made general comments at the start of the meeting that basically symbolized what Meza called an overarching “disrespect” and lack of trust by area residents for Town and County government officials amid the unfolding Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) financial scandal.
For example, Janice Hart of Front Royal questioned the Town Council’s now-approved contract to make current Interim Mayor Matthew Tederick the new interim town manager while a search is conducted for a permanent replacement, saying the action smacked of “impropriety.”
“In light of what this Town and County is enduring by the actions of the Board of Supervisors and the EDA, I would think that as a council you would want to be as transparent as possible with every single move you make,” Hart said.
Likewise, Gary Kushner of Bentonville warned Town Council members against supporting a proposal by Crooked Run West LLC for high-density residential development in a commercial zone to justify the developer’s request for public water service.
“Considering the overwhelming facts against this project, if any public representative wants to support it, I’d be concerned that there was some hidden political agenda versus maybe just a hiccup in their critical-thinking ability,” said Kushner, adding that any public skepticism is warranted by the EDA financial fiasco and, therefore, is a required and healthy attitude.
In beginning his more than five-minute diatribe following such comments, Councilman Meza said he can “certainly understand” citizens’ lack of trust during the current EDA debacle. “But what’s really unfortunate is that so much information breaks a little over time and I feel like few people have the full story,” he said.
Meza then reminded the audience that the Front Royal Town Council “was one of the first movers” in putting a stop to both the improper financial transactions occurring at the EDA, as well as how the authority was functioning during the tenure of former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald, who has been charged on 32 felony counts of obtaining money by false pretenses, money laundering, fraud, and embezzlement by a special grand jury.
Meza said the Town Council collected all the evidence it had and turned it over to the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Virginia State Police. “We were the first movers on that,” he said, putting an emphasis on we, “and I think that gets lost in the general lack of trust from the community.”
In running for his seat three years ago, Meza said he wanted to bring in a set of fresh eyes to evaluate each new project and to be open and fair about any issue that came before Town Council, and also because he was angered by and didn’t understand the exorbitant power fees.
Now, with his term as a councilman ending in December 2020, Meza said he’s not concerned about running for reelection again.
“If you don’t want me here, that’s fine. I’m happy to have somebody else step up here and take my spot,” he told the audience. “In fact, we need more citizens to run. How many elected officials run unopposed?”
And then, with a sweep of his hand out toward residents sitting in the meeting room, Meza said, “That’s your guys’ problem. There’s nobody running against them. If you want a good candidate, put a good candidate in and have them run.”
Meza also said he’s “tired of council being constantly criticized as if every single thing has an ulterior motive or that somebody’s trying to line their pockets.”
“I wasn’t initially prepared to say what I’m going to say, but based on some of the comments from town citizens, I do want to address it because it’s hard to sit and be quiet when the comments of negativity are coming forward, and the lack of trust,” Meza said.
The criticism happens so frequently now, he added, that it’s “downright disrespectful.”
Meza also pointed out that even developers are being dissed by citizens. “Who’s going to want to bring a project before this Town or County anymore? Who?” he asked.
At the same time, Meza also defended the council’s decision to solicit and hire Tederick as interim town manager. He as interim mayor, Tederick’s leadership produced bipartisanship that enabled members to get a lot of “exciting” work accomplished and members don’t want to lose that momentum now that current Town Manager Joe Waltz has resigned. Meza said members want to continue accomplishing the work they’ve started as “a solidified, well-jellied council.”
There’s been no “deep-seeded corruption” taking place among councilmen, he added, “and we are being transparent.”
Following Meza’s comments, Tederick also said the lack of trust from local citizens is understandable, but he explained that part of his job as interim mayor is to defend Front Royal Town Council members.
“And the council did not do anything illegal or inappropriate” related to the decision to hire him as interim town manager, said Tederick.
In a short ceremony, Tederick and the council members thanked Waltz for his service and presented him with a plague recognizing his work as town manager.
Watch the video from the October 28th Town Council meeting in this related story:
Front Royal Town Council approves two significant hires
FRONT ROYAL — Front Royal Town Council members on October 28 voted to hire an Alexandria, VA-based law firm to represent the Town in its lawsuit against the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) and officially hired Interim Mayor Matthew Tederick as the new interim town manager.
Following a closed session after Town Council’s regular Monday night meeting, Tederick stepped down as mayor of the proceeding and turned over the gavel to Vice Mayor William Sealock, who asked his fellow council members for a motion on a retainer agreement for legal services for the Town of Front Royal.
Town Councilman Christopher Holloway moved to accept the retainer agreement to hire Damiani & Damiani, P.C., “with respect to the Town’s lawsuit against the Economic Development Authority.”
Councilman Jacob Meza seconded the move, which was approved 5-1, with Councilman Eugene Tewalt voting against the motion. Council members Sealock, Meza, Holloway, Gary Gillespie, and Latasha Thompson (via phone) voted for it.
The Damiani & Damiani firm lists online more than a dozen practice areas, with specializations in two main areas: personal injury and business law, the latter including general civil litigation in state and federal courts, as well as contract disputes, among others.
Anthony and David Damiani are partners at the firm, which started operations in Old Town Alexandria in 1996. Their firm now will handle the lawsuit filed in June by Town officials against the EDA to recover as much as $15 million in Town assets that they contend were misdirected, lost or acquired under false pretenses.
On the second item following the closed session, Vice Mayor Sealock asked his colleagues for a motion on an agreement for the services of an interim town manager. Councilman Meza moved that the Town Council accept the agreement for services of an interim town manager that would become effective the day after the effective date of the resignation of current Town Manager Joe Waltz. Holloway seconded the motion.
Again, Tewalt was the only dissenting vote in the 5-1 approval of the agreement.
Tewalt on October 16 also was the lone vote against Tederick’s appointment to be interim town manager while there’s an ongoing search for a permanent replacement for Waltz. And while Tewalt declined comment on his vote in opposition to Tederick being appointed as interim town manager, the two long-time local political figures have often butted heads over Town-County issues.
At the same time, Tewalt, a former Front Royal mayor, is on the November 5 special election ballot, which is an interim election to replace Tederick, who took the seat after it was vacated during Hollis Tharpe’s solicitation case. The term for this election will be one year, with an additional election to be held in 2020 for a two-year term. Tharpe is also on the ballot.
Meanwhile, Tederick will depart his interim mayor post next week, assuming the duties of interim town manager for Front Royal on November 9 following the November 8 departure of Waltz, who has held the title for more than a decade. Tederick’s contract is slated to run to July 1, 2020 or until a permanent replacement is found, whichever comes first.
Both of Town Council’s agreement actions took about 30 seconds once members reconvened after the closed session, which followed a regular meeting lasting more than two hours.
During the general comments portion of the regular meeting, Town Council members heard input from five local citizens, many of them not too thrilled about how Tederick is moving from one interim position to another and citing possible procedural conflicts.
For instance, Fern Vazquez, Janice Hart, and Linda Allen, all of Front Royal, separately expressed their concerns about the interim mayor becoming the interim town manager because they thought it conflicted with the Town Charter.
Specifically, they said, chapter 4, section 14 of the charter states that no member of the Front Royal Town Council may be appointed or elected to any office under the jurisdiction of the Council while serving as a member of the Council or for one year thereafter.
“When there is an appearance of a conflict, as in the case of a council member serving in an appointed or elected capacity under the jurisdiction of the Council, the town citizens are looking to the officials they elected to hold to a higher standards of behavior that engenders the trust and confidence of the public,” Vazquez told members. “Public trust and confidence seem to be a rare commodity in today’s atmosphere in Front Royal. We are looking for healing, not more of the same.”
Town Attorney Doug Napier cleared up the misunderstanding by pointing out — upon a request by Tederick — that the mayor is not a member of Town Council, so the charter provision does not apply.
Forthcoming news stories this week will cover other actions made on Monday by the Town Council members.
Watch the Town Council meeting on this exclusive Royal Examiner video: